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GE's New Advanced Manufacturing Lab Accelerating Design, Development

Nov. 19, 2014
Connecticut operation focused on speeding, optimizing manufacturing processes for new GuardEon MCCB platform Sophisticated robotics, automated manufacturing Design for manufacturability
The GE AML includes a series of “moonshine” tables, with programmable logic controllers and pneumatics that work as experimental design pods for inventing enhanced manufacturing operations.

GE’s Industrial Solutions business inaugurated its Advanced Manufacturing Lab (AML) in Plainville, Conn., a center for design and production lines for a new series of molded-case circuit breakers it will introduce next year. The AML incorporates “sophisticated robotics and automated manufacturing systems” that GE indicated would ensure consistent, quality products along with flexibility for the manufacturing operations.

Molded case circuit breakers are low-voltage switch units designed to protect electrical circuits from damage due to overload or short circuit.  The new GuardEon MCCB platform will include four frames, accessories, and trip units designed and launched in less than three years — an accelerated delivery schedule to be achieved using GE’s FastWorks methodology, to speed development while incorporating continuous customer feedback throughout design and development.

The new lab was in development for just over a year, starting with seven engineers in 2013, and now has over 50 full-time, cross-functional, employees.

“The new lab is another example of GE’s investment in the future of our electrical distribution business to better serve our customers,” according GE Industrial Solutions CEO Bob Gilligan. Industrial Solutions business.

Industrial Solutions develops and manufactures products and technologies that ensure reliability and protection for electrical infrastructure.

“While six months ago this space was simply offices and cubicles,” Gilligan continued, “today the 8,000-square-foot area is filled with hands-on, real-world innovative manufacturing design and development tools employed by a highly energized and experienced team of advanced manufacturing engineers."

GE noted the Plainville location promotes collaboration between its advanced manufacturing engineers and design engineers, to promote design-for-manufacturability. The AML already is developing new manufacturing methods for GuardEon products, GE noted.

The lab models future production lines for the GuardEon circuit breaker that incorporate advanced technologies, including some OSHA-approved advanced manufacturing robots with smart-response movements that work alongside operators in manufacturing, “safely and intelligently.”

The AML also includes 4X6-ft “moonshine” tables outfitted with programmable logic controllers and pneumatics that act as experimental design pods for inventing enhanced manufacturing operations, to meet TAKT times, measuring the connection between production-cycle times and customer-demand rates.

Last year, GE opened its NPI Accelerator Lab in Plainville, a collaborative workspace with a machine shop, product tear-down area, and 3D printing prototype production and assembly capabilities, where GE engineers design and develop new products. The Connecticut site is also home to GE’s High Current Test Lab, where it conducts quick-cycle prototype testing for high-voltage products to ensure design, performance, and standards compliance.

Also, GE is building a new Circuit Breaker Center of Excellence (COE) in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, where the GuardEon products will be produced using advanced manufacturing methods being developed at the AML.

“We are making unprecedented investments in our business to deliver the global MCCB platform faster than ever before, while introducing innovative design-for-manufacturing development methods and launching a modern, advanced manufacturing plant,” according to Gilligan.

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